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story.lead_photo.caption There is a little piece of Babylon just behind the California High School horticulture building. Students in two different horticulture classes tend to the greenhouse full of a wide variety of flowers, tomatoes and peppers and sell their work to the public during school hours. Photo by Liz Morales / California Democrat.

After spending a year in dormancy, the California High School greenhouse is open for business until the end of the school year.

The healthy assortment of flowers, tomatoes and peppers are available to the public during school hours. This is the same time the contents of the botanical enclosure are undergoing near-constant maintenance.

Vocational agriculture instructor Lee Longan said no outside help is hired to do the dirty work.

"The kids do all the work," Longan said.

While his students may be the ones flexing their green thumbs, it all starts with Longan.

He teaches three classes of Introduction to AFNR (agriculture, food and natural resources), a freshman course and greenhouse management which occupies the time of the junior and senior classes.

The greenhouse was first built in 2000 and since then, CHS' budding horticulturists have planted the seeds, watered the plants, cleaned up the aftermath and pruned the growth as necessary.

Along with the hands-on experience, students also produce research projects on specific plants each week to better understand the organic materials. There to assist this feature is senior Peyton Niemeier, who serves as a teacher's assistant for greenhouse management.

"There are nine different tables with a variety of flowers in here," Niemeier said. "People are assigned the different tables to work on."

Niemeier also said the students in greenhouse management learn more about the housing structure itself.

"At the beginning of the year, we are introduced to the greenhouse," she said. "Then we learn about the different types of greenhouses and the different structures they can be. Some are made of glass panels while others can be made of film."

One of the biggest challenges to the greenhouse and gardening in general is the unpredictability of it. This fact is something junior Jenna Berendzen finds not only in class, but at her job at Longfellow's Garden Center in Centertown.

"You can put so much effort into planting and then a bug or something will come along and ruin it," she said.

This common gardener woe was met with another problem Missouri plant enthusiasts often face.

"The weather can really make a difference in the greenhouse. You also have to make sure there's a good air flow in here," Niemeier said.

Every penny that is made from the plant profits goes right back to supplies for the greenhouse.

Despite the weather, bugs and air flow, Berendzen and Niemeier enjoy the fellowship that comes with their hard work.

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